Stephen Posted August 21, 2016 Report Share Posted August 21, 2016 X-Plane Version 10.50: What is new Laminar Research has released version 10.50 of X-Plane. In this article we are going to explore what was part of the 10.50 release and the changes that are relevant to the simulator. Closing of the door Version 10.50 is more relevant than most X-Plane updates in the fact it could be the last version of series 10 of the simulator. Certainly there will be increment releases still coming in the 10.50 timeline and maybe even up to v10.55 or even v10.56, but otherwise the development stops here in what is this series version of the simulator. So did Laminar Research set out to achieve its goals and what do we now have in the original promises on the release 24th November 2011 of this current X-Plane version 10 or did they fall short. My personal view is that Laminar certainly delivered on all the promises and a lot more on top for extra measure, so you certainly got your money's worth (in time) and you did get the constant revisions that make the simulator relevant and they delivered great value. Some areas are still not quite perfect, but in most areas the simulator is a huge and even massive step away from its v10.00 origins. In reality X-Plane10 was a game changer for Laminar Research, and even in hindsight it was a precarious gamble to lift the simulator from its basic hobby based background and foundation, to be a more worldly product in that could be even be the "best" Flight Simulator system on the market, and even live up to founder's Austin Meyers boasts that X-Plane could mix it with the big boys. All that risk was based on if X-Plane10 could deliver on its promises, but those risks were based on solid foundations and very good developmental ideas. So what where the X-Plane10 promises... Better Weather A "Plausible" World with autogenerated scenery Global Lighting system (HDR) Detailed Terrain with accurate altitude data Detailed roads ATC - Air Traffic Control In almost all cases the v10.50 update touches on all of the above, so we will answer the final verdict on the promises as we detail the v10.50 update in detail. Startup v10.50 brings you a new startup screen, with white bands and the loading information that goes right across your screen. But don't get used to it as it is only a temporary layout and the X-Plane11 startup will be totally different. It feels brighter (on a big monitor) and more basic than the older blue box for information version, there is possibly a reason for a change this late in the version run, but I really can't see why? Updated default simulator aircraft Throughout the X-Plane10 run the default aircraft that comes with the simulator have had a few revisions and updates. The biggest revision was two years ago in v10.30 when Laminar Research added in the Garmin 430/530 gps system. This was an extra major feature not promised or charged for and no doubt it had a lot of developmental cost, it is now our main gps system and proud of it we all are. Another item that affected default aircraft was X-Plane moving to 64-bit and away from the 32-bit 2-4 GB memory restrictions. Again another v10 bonus that leapfrogged the simulator forward by a huge step, but then most aircraft that used plugins had to be adjusted over to the 64-bit format. Two default aircraft have had a big workover in v10.50 in the King Air C90B and the Beechcraft Baron 58 (the Cessna 172SP has already had a big upgrade a few years ago). Beechcraft Baron 58 The revised aircraft are now easily payware quality. Great detail and with very few bugs, they fly great especially this lovely Baron 58. They are however no Carenado level of quality and features and you notice the missing menus, VOR distance and better sounds.... but they are free after all. Outwardly the aircraft looks the same as the earlier version when you first get into the aircraft, but your eyes deceive you. Put the Baron 58 aircraft side by side (v10.30 to the left and v10.50 to the right) and the detail differences are absolutely huge in quality (look at the door frames and rivet work in the engine cowlings), instruments are cleaner and clearer as well. So there has been a complete overhaul of the design. King Air C90B The chances are the King Air C90B was your first serious aircraft for doing professional VOR flying. The Boeing 747-400 had limitations once you cleared away the wow factor, and the tiddler 172SP didn't have any speed. So when you came into X-Plane the C90B it was where you learnt to manually fly, navigate and get in that first longer serious flight. I did, and the memories still linger. The revision throws in more quality and the refinement is very high, again up there with payware money. Only things that are not up to scratch are the low idle sounds, and too much power for taxiing. Even if you pull back the mixture to idle and almost feather the propellers, you are still constantly on the brakes to slow the C90B down, on hold and ready to take-off with the levers all forward... it is like holding back a pack of rabid dogs. Global aircraft enhancements in 10.50 include better prop disc visuals and they now work correctly in the replay mode, auto-pilot can now hold a basic rate of turn, elevator deflection in trim has been refined, stall warnings are now more realistic and the crash limit has been reduced from 20g to 10g. Finally developers can insert datarefs to adjust the volume on the radios, this means different volumes for different radio channels and thankfully there will be no over loud shouting anymore in your ears. On both of these aircraft the deal feels more towards X-Plane11 than X-Plane10. Get them ready and get them up too scratch and that has certainly been done here, but the surprise here is the default and the icon of X-Plane10 in the Boeing 747-400, there has been no update there and that is the aircraft really needs the attention after nearly five years flying, and surprising also because it is by far the most flown default aircraft in X-Plane by 5% of all flights in the simulator... I'll shake my head on that one. ATC - Air Traffic Control and A.I. Artificial Intelligence The X-Plane ATC system feature has been a difficult one since day one of X-Plane10. To a point it was put into the Laminar "too hard" basket for years until the feature had to finally have the much required attention or be dropped for a third party plugin version. A big part of the X-Plane ATC is the "Artificial Intelligence" or A.I. feature and as they are both very closely interlinked and so we will look at them together. My earlier periods of interaction with the ATC are mostly consisted of multiple swear words and mostly I never used the ATC. A period of the personal challenge of mastering the ATC did result in a truce between the feature and myself, but the famous "you are off course!" alert showed that overall the bugs were too notable to be worth the more grey and the less hair than I have now. At its core the ATC - Air Traffic Control is very clever and even very good, but it is also hopelessly complicated and very buggy. No doubt a third party plugin like X-Life could do the whole idea better (the interface is excellent), but the ATC was an X-Plane10 debut feature and it had to made to work at least at a reasonable level. To a point I think that Laminar have succeeded with the ATC in v10.50, and no doubt it is still very basic, however it does work well with a few tips and hints. There are no changes to the "Flight Plan" input panel. But the route codes can still be tricky to input. I found sometimes if you cut and pasted in the route it wouldn't accept it and at other times it worked fine. To be sure if it refuses to file then add in a few waypoints and then press return to activate the flight plan, if accepted then go back and input more waypoints and so on... Two new items added into the ATC interface has highly reduced the work load. The first one was in v10.45 actually at my request and that was a reply to the ATC controller was done with just another return key click. The problem was that before this every time you had to use the mouse or cursor to click on the reply or repeat the instruction back to the ATC. this meant taking your attention and hands away from flying the aircraft to do that instruction, and repeat that operation five or ten times early in the flight and it would mean mostly you would fail in your timing or keeping up with the constant ATC instructions, it was mind numbingly hard to do, and even the real pilots only have to press the radio button on the yoke to activate the radio and not manually use a pointer. Now if the instruction is highlighted you just press return to reply the instruction and in a high work load period it works really well, however the instruction is not always highlighted and you still have to use the pointer to do so... but overall it works very well. Another ATC change is the with the pop-up "Nearby Air Traffic Controllers" frequency inserter panel that added in v10.40. On the panel there is now a checkbox to allow to "autotune" in the next correct frequency you require. This is a huge time saver as some radio panels can be awkward to get to. A note though is that the pop-up panel still has to be opened to reset the next frequency. I use a key command toggle (A) to open and close the ATC panel in two quick keystrokes to do the action. You can debate if these aids are cheating? Should you do all these instructions manually like you in an aircraft environment? My answer is that in a basic GA then you should not need the aids, but in a standard larger two crew aircraft then in most real time cases the pilot not flying does all the radio work, and in this scenario then yes the aids are valid. The optional taxiway arrows are a great idea, but they do totally depend on if the airport scenery ATC routes and taxiway flows are correct. In most cases you just don't know? In many cases most scenery payware developers do note the ATC work has been done, but in most if not all cases it is a lottery ticket. Laminar Research note they can't enforce all global airport sceneries to have conforming routes because it is a skills area were as many of the scenery developers are very good but many are not, but I feel it should be a heavy standard in passing the scenery for distribution or give us a tool or note that the scenery is certified with the correct layouts. I think this aspect is one of the biggest drawbacks to the ATC, A.I. aircraft and the taxiway arrow features in working effectively. The number of A.I. aircraft assigned in your aircraft/situations/other aircraft menu can have a big bearing on your flight. If you set a high number of say 15 to the 20 limit, then the wait and hold times are long until your turn comes around. Ditto the amount of ATC commentary going on in your ears and not only on the ground but certainly in the air, but you may like this high ATC commentary activity (until it goes wrong). I found about five to six was better if you want a quieter flight. Another issue with the constant high number of calls is that your last instruction soon zips up the screen and disappears, so if you forgot your last instruction or heading change then you are in trouble, I have asked Laminar for a "request" command to do just that, there is the "report last transmission" already on there but It doesn't show when you really need it. The ATC still currently has bugs that I will note but will probably be addressed quickly. ATC will clear you for takeoff and then in an instant then clear another aircraft to land? You can go now or wait until the runway is clear... the second issue is that I set the A.I. aircraft to be mostly single aisle aircraft in the B737 or A320 categories and the ATC wanted them to fly at FL400 or Forty Thousand feet (climb and maintain FL 400), when they didn't the ATC kept on asking them to so, over and mind-numbingly over again in the shades of the nasty "you are off course!" coming back around again. A tip is to follow this mantra... reply, action then change. First is to reply to the instruction, then do the action (heading or V/S) and doing both quickly will keep the ATC off your back, but it is a bit backward in the way you usually fly. If you are given the instruction to go to a heading and then changing to an altitude, there is a lot of work to be done. So in most cases the ATC is quickly on your back as you are still going through all the motions. The problem one is the change in altitude and your normal sequence is to change the altitude counter and then hit the V/S button and do the pitch change, but that path course is too long. The only way (at this point) around the ATC is to adjust the heading, activate the V/S and pitch to get the aircraft to start the climb or descend and then finally set the altitude counter, which is not very realistic. But the system demands that the both actions are noted quickly, but with practise or skill you can allow yourself to set the altitude earlier and be ready if you are good at it. Checking out the A.I. airport circuits on the local map can also prepare you for what heading and landing direction the ATC is going to give you can also help with ATC timing. Overall the ATC is now quite to very good. It does allow for mistakes and will align you up ready to continue with your programmed (GNS) flightplan. The controllers are still very, very impatient and are still asking "are you still there?" And you really need a bit more time between the instructions and the actions. But with practise and a rhythm you can finally turn the ATC into fun and it is not the huge headache it was. A.I. Aircraft The A.I. aircraft feature in X-Plane has been given attention as well. They should now fly and land more realistically. The A.I. parking at gates has had a big workover as well in not only making sure they appear but are also more highly randomised, they now also load by their correct category as well in say heavy or regional aircraft. You can select to have have the parked aircraft appear or not via a tickbox on the Render Options "Stuff to Draw" panel. But like I mentioned is that the A.I. aircraft totally rely on the airports ground routes to operate correctly. If they don't then they still behave badly as noted while doing this review. More times it was wrong than right, they still taxi too fast through terminal areas and the odd aircraft still plummets to the ground in the distance. Here it is parking in a carpark and queuing up at an empty airport. When it works A.I. it is very good... but in most cases the hidden disjointed WED airport routing lets it all down. Autogen Autogen or automatically drawn objects has had a fair amount of attention with v10.50. One of the big features of X-Plane10 was the "Plausible" World concept, it is clever and highly realistic in terms of using your computer's rendering system resources to recreate a realistic world to fly around in. In parts I have found the views unnervingly very realistic, but in other areas wanting. In 10.50 two areas have been covered. One, is the earlier original autogen has been tightened up with mostly the actual ground areas around the objects (houses) to make them fit in better. From the air the autogen does look more complete, but too many of those open spaces still remain. My object settings are "Too Many" here, and set just under the extreme setting that you really need but that setting uses just too much framerate. The second and new feature is that the autogen now has tall buildings again, but only in limited regions. This is Memphis, Tennessee and the overall the cityscape was impressive. Buildings are highly realistic, original but use only the U.S. data for the scenery... In English that means for now it only work in the U.S. But in reality it is in the other parts of the world that X-Plane really needs this feature and not the U.S., but it is very good. I found though that the tall building autogen fades away very quickly? A few miles out and they are skeletons, and by the time I was flying over Elvis Presley's Graceland the cityscape had gone? In reality they should be visible (with the right visibility setting) for quite a distance to make it realistic, because there is nothing like seeing a cityscape from the airport when you have just landed, taking off or overflying the city, so it is at this point all a bit wasted unless you do low GA passes. So the autogen is still a little way off the completeness mark. It is five years since it was introduced, and it does work, but still very patchy and mostly still focused on the U.S. but the full total potential of the feature is certainly in there. If anything in X-Plane11 is that Laminar should throw a lot more resources at the autogen art, but then again I said that four years ago. Weapon System X-Plane is noted as an aircraft simulator and Laminar Research are very anti-war. So fighting aircraft and killing things in the simulator has been usually relegated over to the game industry rather than simulation. But the gaming industry is a huge business and war focused simulators are very popular in their appeal in mustering our basic (if male) instincts that goes a long way back to slaying mammoths. So Laminar have added in a lot of weapon system functions into v10.50. Weapon selection is now better with flashing selected armaments. You can now also steer or aim in a direction a gun, even with a second joystick can be added in to do the delivery job. Unguided bombs and rocket numbers have been added with up to 24 bombs and 99.999 rockets! that is if you can carry that heavy load. Air to ground bombs and missiles can now be laser or GPS guided to their targets. Either by a gun/bomb steering with a joystick axis or by locking in on a target and then firing letting the bombs or missiles go to their assigned target, and all can be set via your on-board aircraft situation display monitor. In the upgraded weapons package is another feature that could be used also by other aircraft developers. This is a new on board aircraft "Camera" feature that can be steered (again by a second joystick) and zoomed with my guess a joystick top-hat, key or similar adjustment. There are at this point no aircraft with these new features, but I don't doubt they will appear very quickly on up-dated or new versions of military aircraft. Weather Austin Meyer's "little puffs" have been the most contentional and has created the most angst of all the X-Plane10 features. Clever and there is no doubt about that, but they have been the one feature that has ripped the heart out of X-Plane by the sheer amount of processing power they require to create those zillion million "little puffs" that makes up the weather system of the simulator. The problem is most computers can't cope, and if you had like I did an average processing machine, you were mostly reduced to very light cloud formations no matter where you flew. And even with the mega graphic monster I use now, that frame rate will still halve just running the weather with just good and average settings, but go dark and stormy and so does your framerate. All though the X-Plane10 development cycle it has been for Laminar a war to get the framerate down by refining the "puff" system. To a point they have been successful, but the amount of time and resources it has taken, has also meant that other weather features like different cloud formations, anvil storms, 3D volumetric cloud layers and crepuscular rays have not been forthcoming and making most users have had to seek out third party products to fill in the gap. One area that has been covered was downloading high wind data (in v10.40). This area has had more refinement in 10.50 but I was not a big fan as I see it as a little buggy. As I fly a lot of long haul (or long flights) I have found the high winds quite unrealistic and mostly always in the high 80's or 100knt ranges? In some cases when the new download comes in, I have had the aircraft almost at a stand still at full power at 37,000ft until I adjust the setting down a little to continue my flight... If that high wind angle comes from a side wind, your dead. Wind data is now displayed on your local map. There are three new tickboxes on the top right of the panel with: NEXRAD wind 12k wind 34k NEXRAD will show you your current weather or cloud situation, and the wind direction and speed is now shown on the map profile as well. The 34k selection will over-ride every thing, so you have to disable it to get the 12k selection. I noticed that the 34k selection covers the high-altitude box layer and the 12k covers the mid-altitude box layer and wondered why there was no setting for the low-altitude box layer? As the weather data is now loaded from two sources in; METAR and global NOAA data for the high winds. There is the option in 10.50 to download both loads of data in one operation on the X-Plane startup panel. Main refinements to the clouds in 10.50 are the stratus clouds which look better from above, Strobe lights in the clouds are set now to only happen when completely in the clouds, and they don't also affect the scenery at night when turned on, and the break-out to visual at the cloud bases now works very well. Laminar Research have worked hard on X-Plane10's weather. Translucent clouds and better fog have created a better and more realistic look when flying through cloud masses and you don't now get that constant jumping to the hard grey screen of blankness and a runaway framerate. I flew the DC-8 after completing the review in tracking back in the newer 10.50RC1 from KDFW to KATL in a more heavy weather and HDR night flight (both don't look good in reviews) and was very impressed on the smoothness of the simulator and the better cloud processing that has been done. So there is definitely an improvement and a bonus small framerate gain from the changes. Terrain and global airports One of the main advantages of X-Plane is that anything in every area can be refined and updated. It is astounding that how far back it is to the original X-Plane10 release and what you actually received in the boxed package... If you take a moment and think about it, it was quite basic. X-Plane global scenery is provided on those nine CD's that you get when you buy X-Plane and in most cases you would have to wait for a new X-Plane version to update the scenery in those discs. But the internet and download speeds have come a long way in those five years as well, and Laminar Research through the work of alpilotx has been very generous in providing updated scenery HD (High-Definition) mesh to replace the more populous and most scenic flying areas of the world of those original scenery tiles (files)... with these more high density and crowded data tiles to give the simulator a more realistic view. They don't cover all the areas, but certainly the most important ones. How X-Plane11 will be distributed will be interesting and will these HD files be included with the packages, or will there be a totally new way to buy and distribute the simulator? I don't use much HD replacement scenery for the reviews because to get an real accurate account of the scenery and the framerate, I keep the simulator pretty close to the basic specifications, but they are a worthwhile if very large download expansion of X-Plane. Global Airports X-Plane10 also came with a set of tools (named Lego) that allowed you in blocks (hence the name) to create airports quickly and easily for the X-Plane simulator. Some developers have become masters of these tools and most notably they are tdg, Mister6x and relicroy in their prolific output and quality. To build these global "lego" airports the original WED (World EDitor) application has gone in X-Plane10 from being a basic airport ground layout tool, to a full complete airport scenery building application. Originally most "lego" airports were just posted up for download on the X-Plane.Org. But mid-way through the X-Plane10 cycle Laminar Research created a "Global Airport" library called the "X-Plane Scenery Gateway" to not only catalogue the scenery, but to in updates also insert these airport sceneries as default airports and creating for any new or current user of the simulator a vast set of built in variety of destinations. To date 7,092 global sceneries have been created and 5,191 of them have been created with 3d objects by 1,862 scenery artists. To a point the "gateway" was created to offset the criticism that X-Plane was poor in the scenery area for most new or current users. It is a fair comment, but one of the big features and certainly the shear number of sceneries now available, in not only the "gateway" and "payware" created scenery that has been one of the biggest changes and introduced the total transformation to X-Plane10 from its introduction. Since X-Plane 10.45 there has been 626 new 3-D gateway airports added, and 147 more airports was added in with 10.50, with 718 sceneries having also being updated. There was to be another large batch of airports to be inserted before 10.50 goes final, but they have been withheld because WED 1.5 is not ready. But they will be inserted with 10.51. (see post here). Key selection changes With every X-Plane version update the minor changes can be hidden. The Joystick & Equipment, key and button menu selection is a case in point. One item I change a lot is with the way I have to switch on my joystick (trigger button) the "Thrust Reversers" into two different modes. For the heavies I use the trigger to open the doors (Toggle Thrust Reversers) before putting up the throttle for the reverse thrust. In a regional propeller aircraft the same reverse effect is done by "Hold Reverse Thrust at Max", and so you have to change between each setting to get the right action on landing. Before both selections where set out together above one another, but in 10.50 they are not. Now they are separated quite a distance from each other, but they also now have new selections on each action for each separate engine, with up to eight engines that can be individually selected via button or key selections. So in 10.50 there is more variety and more menu functionality available, but check that your settings are correct and their new place settings on the menu. For developers there are a few new datarefs: sim/operation/override/override_airport_lites – int y boolean overrides when the airport lites go on and off. sim/graphics/scenery/airport_lights_on – int y boolean Are the airport lites on? set override_airport_lites to 1 to write this. sim/private/controls/puff/terrain_dust_ratio – 0 is none. 1.0 is X-Plane default. sim/cockpit2/weapons/gun_offset_heading_ratio – float y ratio Heading offset of the gun from within its maximum heading range sim/cockpit2/weapons/gun_offset_pitch_ratio – float y ratio Pitch offset of the gun from within its maximum pitch range Plane Maker 10.50 and WED 1.5 applications have both been updated to include the 10.50 features and known bug fixes. A good simulator is a clean one... I made some notes in the post X-Plane version 10.50 has gone release candidate 2 with "getting a clean install" on how to get the best from the latest 10.50 update by creating a clean X-Plane application install, it is worth reading. Summary One thing that comes out of this X-Plane 10.50 version and it is certainly more noteworthy if 10.50 is the final release of X-Plane10. And that is how much the simulator has changed over the last five years. In time X-Plane10 will be known as the gamechanger version of X-Plane, the one that brought the simulator to a world standard. As noted in this review in that a few areas the signature features were not completely totally refined at this point and are still a work in progress in the Weather and Autogen, but you have to admit a lot of ground was covered and changed in that 5 year period also. Exclusive features like the HDR (High-dynamic range rendering) rendering are as even now a great step forward with 64-bit memory allocation allowing the simulator to be world class and ahead of the simulation game (no pun intended). Other simulators can deliver a higher visual quality and a higher immersion, but none can do this on a global scale or with as much flexibility as X-Plane can. X-Plane is certainly an investment that unlike most products delivers far more that it advertises when it is released, and this 10.50 release is mostly to tie up those original promises and get ready to move on to the next stage of the simulator's future development in X-Plane11. Outwardly there is not much to see in 10.50. As most of the things noted here are mostly in the areas of refining off the original release features, bug killing and making the simulator more efficient in many areas. And for that 10.50 is a great and even brilliant upgrade, but it is low on the "wow" factor in the visual or with any special features departments. In the very end the overwhelming result is... a really great simulator. X-PlaneReviews can't cover absolutely every change or bug fix, and so those notes are avaiiable here at the Laminar Research Development pages: X-Plane 10.50 Release Notes X-Plane 10.50 is available now for download. Run your X-Plane installer application or download from Steam. ____________________________________________________________ Stephen Dutton 19th August 2016 Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews MercuryMat 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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